Monday, June 20, 2016

Amoena baked White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

My favorite store-bought cookies are cranberry-white chocolate cookies. I'm not really a fan of cranberries... nor white chocolate, but somehow the combination works. Since I am not into baking and expanding my repertoire to cookies too, I decided to google for a recipe! I found several promising recipes, but I also found this old Google Plus post of mine:

This is a cranberry - white chocolate cookie. It looks home-baked but it's a lie. They're store-bought, a very cheap brand on top of everything. And they're wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I wish I knew how to bake cookies like this, it would make me so proud. I would be baking them all the time and forcing people to eat them so they would have to admire my baking skills. That's how wonderful they are. Just telling you, they're wonderful.
Obviously there was a picture attached too but it is irrelevant. Anyway. Apparently I used to dream about being able to bake such cookies, back in 2011. I think it's the circle of life. You dream of something, never do anything about it, and then later realize you've achieved it anyway. Or maybe it is just my life that works that way.

I found several recipes that pretty much sounded as the same thing. They all had white chocolate and cranberries in them, who could have guessed. No, really, the recipes were quite alike, they just had different amounts of things. I eventually chose one recipe from Good to Know website. Not because it appeared to be somehow more excellent than the other, but because the recipe was in grams and other measurements I was able to comprehend without consulting Google first. I have a really nice kitchen scale but I don't have US measuring cups. Though considering how many US recipes I use, that would make a nice gift. You know, for me.

I prepared my main ingredients. I made the dough. I forgot 100 grams out of my 190 grams of flour. No biggies, I was able to fix that even though I had already stirred in my cranberries and white chocolate. I am sure it made no difference. The cranberries were nice and soft by the way, got them right next door from Lidl.


According to the recipe I should have been able to make balls out of dough, roll them even. My dough was definitely too moist for that. And that is how I originally realized that I have way, way too little flour. But adding more flour didn't fix the problem. I just had to spoon the dough to the baking sheet. Not exactly pretty, and definitely not what I expected. That is not a ball! That is not anything you could work by hands. Ugh?

But how did they turn out! How! And are they as good as the cookies that inspired me? Are they something I would force people to eat just so they could admire my "baking skills"? First of all, they turned our really ugly. They spread quite a bit in the oven and they stayed quite moist. The cookies I like are really dry and small. I need to try to fix that next time. I just don't know how. More flour? Less something? I'm quite a novice when it comes to cookies.

Taste wise they are quite OK. They could taste better, but on the other hand they do taste like cranberries and white chocolate. It's more like the consistency I didn't enjoy so much. But this was just the experiment #1, and there will be more experiments in the future. I had to bake bread like million times before I got it right, I expect the same process with these cookies too. They will become better, every time I make them and after every recipe I try. Practice... makes perfect? Or at least prettier cookies?

And so... this was my first post about baking. But I am not turning this into a baking blog. This blog will be what it has always been: a blog about me. And I am not a pastry!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The story of "us"

This is the story of us. And by "us" I mean the story of our commune. Who are we and how did we end up living in the same apartment?

There are four of us. I am one and I am Amoena, the writer of this thing I call as my blog. Then there is my boyfriend who originally (afaik) got the idea of a commune and made it a reality. I shall call my boyfriend as I.B. here since using initials has always been my way of referring other people in my blog. Then there is M.R who is actually an ex of my boyfriend, but don't get fooled. Our commune is not some kind of weird polyamory arrangement, it's just the way it is. Besides she's a lesbian now, and it makes it more OK. I sometimes find it kinda cool to say that I live together with my boyfriend's ex. Since it makes me sound like all tolerant and shit, even though I have never ever really thought of her as his girlfriend. And the last person is T.R, my boyfriends best friend. There is nothing particular to say about him, except that he maybe was a monkey in his past life. He's not hairy, no, but he seems to like hanging upside down like one.

You can probably get the logic now. We're all connected by one person, and that one person is my boyfriend. And I was the last addition to the group. I've never seen us as a group though but if I did I would feel blessed to be accepted in it. I'm hardly ever accepted to anything and nobody has ever adopted me in that manner either. But I'm as close to being accepted and adopted than I ever will be, I guess.

When I first heard of the idea of living in a commune I was like yes, let's do it. But I had this doubt in my mind that it would be one of those things that we just keep talking about. Like one of those dreams or goals, like going out on a trip or making something big happen. Like quitting a job and starting an own business. That kind of thing.

It was not just that alone that made me doubt. It's actually quite hard to find an apartment that fits four adults. Most bigger apartments are meant for families with kids, and they have one master bedroom and them considerably smaller rooms for the kids. Big rooms are hard to find. Another obstacle was to find apartment that suited our life: none of us wanted to make our commute longer and we all worked in a very different directions.

So I kinda assumed that we would just keep talking about it and keep looking for the apartments and never really fining anything suitable. But actually we find the right apartment quite fast in the end. If I remember even half correctly it only took couple months of active searching. Though it took some time to get in that active searching phase... Anyway.

Our apartment is not perfect and I think most of us had to make compromises. The room I share with I.B. is actually quite small for two persons, though the size it makes quite cozy and nice. It's like our little nest. M.R. has not one but two rooms for herself, but they are small so one is her bedroom and one is her study. She seems to be content with the solution even though I was originally afraid that she would just compromise to make us happy. T.R. probably had to make a compromise with the location of his room because his room is probably the noisiest because it's just next to our nest and the bathroom and the kitchen and all. It's like a black hole that sucks all the noise.

But even though our apartment is not perfect it is still our home. And it will get better as we get more used to it, when we live longer in it.

Friday, June 10, 2016

And so that is life

A lot has happened in my life. I got married. I bought a house with my husband. I got divorced and sold my share of the house to my husband. We divided the dogs, I now only have one. But you know what? All that is life and life goes on after that. Just bring it on, bring it on.

I found a new love. It didn't come without obstacles but it was worth it. It somehow became everything I ever wanted. It's not like there was something wrong with my marriage, though there definitely was since it's over now, but there is something else now. I can't explain it but I  can feel it and it feels just great. I gave up a lot of things but I ended up gaining new, unexpected things. It's like my life was strongly heading to one direction, to this ordinary life, but then I just turned around and it become something else.

I think I could be considered as someone who leads an alternative lifestyle. But to me it is called life and it is something I  call as normal. I now life together with my boyfriend like any other girl who ended up falling in love with someone. But we share our home with two other persons.

We like to call our living arrangement as a commune but in reality we're more like regular roommates. We just happen to be work-going adults instead of poor students. Me and my boyfriend share a room and the others have their own rooms. We don't cook together or anything very commune-like. We have our own individual lives. But I like it that way. I'm not really social anyway and I am more than happy to spend time alone with my boyfriend. Like any other girl who has ended falling in love with someone.

But this new life has changed my interests. Not tremendously though since I still run. Running never goes away. I've already signed for 10K race and for my first half marathon. But I picked up baking. Baking is great and I'm getting a hang of it. I think I'm becoming more motherly, always baking things for my boys to enjoy. I've baked cakes, pies, cookies and everything and I am constantly trying to find new cool things to bake and new ways to improve my recipes.

And I've been meaning to pick up blogging again. I even borrowed a laptop to do it, but this is the first time I actually got around to do it. It's been on my calendar for months. It's so hard to start something again that you have neglected for such a long time. But I should try as writing/blogging is one of the things that do make me happy. Words make me happy.

I know that my blog has no readers but I don't mind. I always, always blog for myself. And even when I don't blog... I still do. All this time when I have not been updating this blog, I have still writing my own secret, childish diaries, notes and lyrics and all that. Writing is like running, it never really goes away. Never. I just need to continue from where I left.

In the future there are some topics I'd like to write more about. One is about my life in the commune. I don't want to get into details as others really don't have a say in the things I write and I tend to respect privacy. But about the general idea of being an adult and living with roommates. I think it should be advertised more as it is actually a really, really nice and economical way to live.

And second is baking, my newest and currently my dearest hobby. I would like to share my triumphs and no-triumphs with pictures and maybe even recipes if I ever get so far to have my own. My blog as always been about me and about the things I enjoy and that is currently what I enjoy. I want here to be bread porn and noms. Maybe more noms than bread porn but anyway.

And thirdly... just everything. Everything there is between waking up and going to bed every night. I don't put myself into a box. This blog has been about so many things already that I can add in anything. Maybe I start to write in Swedish when I write it fluently. Maybe I start doing something else.

I hope that I can keep this up, Blogging I mean. Not like every day obsessed kinda way but in a way that makes me happy about it. This scares me a lot, you know, Starting again. Took me months to find the courage as I thought this blog would be dead already. But like everything, this too has come with obstacles and it's time to get over them. Time to pull the head out the sand, to suck it up, to do it.

And so that is life. As it is right now. And it's good. It's still good.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Road to Recovery

Life is funny the way it works. How one thing leads to another, and before you know it you find yourself somewhere where you never ever expected to find yourself. That's what happened to me, big time. Back in 2013 I decided to lose some weight and in order to fully commit myself to the project I challenged my coworker K. to walk 90 kilometres in a month. Little challenge never hurts anyone, right. I'm competitive like that and I like to win. It motivates me more than just trying to do something on my own, without real goal in mind.

What I did not know, back then, how it would change my life. How it would change K's life too. Because that little challenge wasn't enough for us. It was actually too easy. I  think we both ended up walking way more than just 90 kilometres. And that daily walking habit lead us to running. Why walk when you can run? And so we both picked up running too. I was little late to the party and didn't manage to run so much in 2013... but I started running as soon as it was possible the next year.

And last year, 2014, I started to run even more seriously. And I got better at it. And somewhere along the way my goal changed. I wasn't running to lose weight anymore, I ran because I liked it and I wanted to be able to run even faster. I think that for the first time ever I  exercised for other reason than just to lose weight. And it felt good. It felt healthy. It felt normal, like a natural thing to do. It was a start for something new, though it still took me a long time to get where I am now.

I wanted to get better at running so I decided I needed to build some muscles too. So I got myself a little 6kg kettlebell. And oh boy it was hard. But I did it, semiregularly. Didn't really manage to build any muscle during the running season, mostly due to my own laziness. But I got familiar with kettlebell exercising.

So to summarize the story so far: walking lead to running and running lead to kettlebell exercising.

Last year I participated in Helsinki Midnight Run. Talking about real goals here! I used to be a girl who didn't run, and who were probably able to run 10 metres. And then I became a girl who was able to run 10K, nonstop. Not super fast though, but hey, it was a big deal for me. I participated in a god damn race! But Helsinki Midnight Run also pretty much ended my running season. There was a lot happening during that time, I think my social life kinda got in the way of my running. No regrets though, I am more than happy that I decided to invest in my social life rather than running. Me having social life has lead to so many good things that there are no words to even describe them.

After my running season was finished, I drifted for couple months, not sure what to do next. I gained weight. Like crazy. Before I even noticed it myself  I was the chubby girl again. Something just had to change because the idea of starting the next running season from zero was killing me. I wanted to get better, not to start all over again!

So in November I finally picked up the kettlebells again. And since I wasn't running, they become my main focus. I trained several times a week. I got better, fast. What used to be too heavy for me become easy. I got heavier kettlebells. I trained harder and longer than ever before. But I saw no physical change really, I just got stronger. Which is not a bad thing, of course. After all it meant that somewhere under all the chubbiness I was building muscles. And the idea of having muscles, even invisible, was quite a nice one.

And that lead to my next major breakthrough. 

Apparently you need protein in order to build muscles. And to get protein you need to actually eat food. Which is something I have never really been good at. I used to be some kind of anorexic person when I was younger. And even though I have thought for years that I am no longer that person, I was. I wasn't eating the way I was supposed to be. I was eating, but I was still thinking that it's somehow bad and that it was holding me back. And I was eating all the wrong things too because I didn't know any better. I wasn't definitely eating much protein because I just didn't like meat. Never occurred to me that it's something you should actually eat if you don't get the protein elsewhere.

I've been on a very strict diet this year. And usually diet means that you eat less than normally. But I have been eating much more than usually. And there is a lot more protein in my diet than ever before, now I eat meat every day. And have I gained weight like one would assume considering how much more I am eating now? No. I have been losing weight, steadily. And my weight has stopped fluctuating, no up and downs anymore. I think I have finally realized why eating is so essential. It's not something you have to do, but something you should want to do in order to give your body what is needs in order to achieve the things you want to achieve. Can't build muscles without protein, can't get energy to exercise without carbs.

It's been a long way to recovery, but I am here now. And that's all that matters. And all this, exercising and eating right has changed the way I feel about myself. It has changed my standard of beauty. I no longer want to be skinny. Hell no. I want to be strong and fit. When I look myself in the mirror I want to be able to think "I worked hard to get here" and not "I starved myself for this". There's a difference, and it's a different look too. I now very much prefer the first look.

And working hard... actually makes me happy. I enjoy the things I do for myself now. Kettlebells make me happy, being able to lift heavier weights makes me happy, running makes me happy, eating makes me happy. All those things I do nowadays make me happy. And you know what doesn't make you happy? Not eating, Starving. Being miserable when eating. I know that, because I've been there. I have been the skinny girl and I think I have never ever been more unhappy than during those years. Yes, I was thin but I was feeling like crap all the time.

But right now, here where I am mentally, I wouldn't trade my body to be skinny, not in a million years. I rather be the way I am right now than skinny fat. So yeah, maybe I have recovered. Took me some time, but I got here. Now I just need to keep going to see how far it takes me.

This is just a start.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Material for art

I was very productive today with photography. We walked to the dog park and back and I got the camera with me... and I took over 200 pictures. I always take a ton of pictures when I shoot something. I have a very low success rate. I need to take 100 pictures to get one I really like. Anyway. When I go out shooting I rarely use the display on the camera, I only use the view finder. And I just click click click pictures like no tomorrow. The pictures I take are not my art. They don't really matter. I don't really bother to check them on the go. I trust my instincts. The pictures I take are only my material. I use it to make my own art afterwards. That's how it works for me. My pictures are never ever finished when I press the shutter. They are not even half finished. They are nothing until I've worked my own magic on them.

I also pondered today if the thing I do is considered art. I guess it is art, art photography, fine art... But I don't really feel like making art when I make my pictures. For me art is something less digital. I think I need to change my attitude because my pictures are definitely more than just pictures. They are closer to art than regular snap shots.


I am too tired to write. But here are some pictures I took today: